There’s Actually A Whole Civilization Of ‘Mole People’ Living Beneath Las Vegas

Mole people may seem like an urban legend, but they shouldn’t. You see, underneath the brightly lit Las Vegas Strip, there’s a not-so-secret society that’s existed for decades. And the folks there have plenty of stories to tell about life in Sin City’s tunnels. Some of them may even make your hair stand on end…

Taking To The Tunnels

It all started back in the 1990s, when a series of flood tunnels were built beneath Las Vegas. And perhaps because these provided good shelter from the elements, people slowly began to move in. It was the start of something big — but something that most of us on the surface have no clue about.

Photo by Brian Vander Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
The Entrance

That’s because a tunnel entrance looks like any regular overpass. You’ve probably walked or driven past a few without a second thought. Take a few steps inside, however, and you’ll find a massive network of tunnels that, according to the Clark County Regional Flood Control District, stretches 300 miles underground. And this network attracts people for a number of reasons.

Who’s Down There?

For many, there isn’t another option. They’re homeless for all sorts of reasons — from lack of access to mental health resources to poverty, job loss, addiction, and beyond. But there are also a few people you probably wouldn’t expect to see down there.

Be Prepared

Some folks actually choose to live house-less lives. Then there are the travelers who stop and stay in the tunnels briefly. But if you want to join them, you need to be prepared for a society that functions differently. And there’s one big change you’ll have to get used to.

Light At The End Of The Tunnel

“Sometimes, when our clock says six o’clock, you don’t know whether it’s… morning or in the evening,” said Shay, a 53-year-old woman who calls the tunnels home. “If some light comes in at the end of the tunnel, we know it’s daytime.” It’s no wonder some view their lives underground as exile.

Life Of Exile

Anthony, who took to the tunnels after getting released from prison, said to Business Insider, “This is how society treats us: they want us to be invisible. But we are here; we want to be seen. Our story must be heard.” And there’s one huge difficulty the residents say they have to deal with.

No Plumbing

Basically, there’s no plumbing in the tunnels, and that’s what resident Angell claimed was the most difficult part of her underground home. Still, some folks have gotten creative. A woman named Rusty and her husband have used a whirlpool as a standing bath.

More Permanent Setups

Other people have managed to set up rather comfortable spaces in the tunnels, with full-size furniture. Having so many permanent fixtures does pose a major complication, though, if there’s a sudden rainstorm.

Worst Fear

Yep, while rainfall isn’t common in Las Vegas, it’s one of the biggest fears of the people who live underground. If it gets heavy, residents must drop everything and flee. And it’s not as unlikely as you think. The whole idea for the tunnels came about after a 1975 flood devastated Las Vegas.

Flood Tragedies

That fear of a bad downpour is justified, as several people have died as a result of tunnel floods. As recently as 2016, a resident drowned when water cascaded inside and swept them away in the current. And there are other huge — sometimes deadly — problems to contend with.

Emergency Situations

Overdoses are another difficult reality of tunnel life, and EMTs aren’t always able to locate people inside. Sometimes tunnel residents even delay calling the authorities out of fear of their own arrest. It can ultimately lead to tragedy. And that’s not all.

Crime Hub

Given their isolated nature, the tunnels are a hotbed for illegal activity. Angell explained, “There are no cameras here, and I’ve even heard of murders.” Some residents live in fear of this danger, but then inviting in the authorities comes with risks, too. Take, for example, when the cops arrive…

Abrupt Displacement

Yep, due to concerns about crime in the tunnels, police presence there has increased. And that can disrupt life completely. In some cases, the homeless are forced to leave their possessions behind and immediately vacate the premises.

Home To Thousands

In any case, it’s estimated that some 2,000 people currently live in the underground flood tunnel system. And it’s not all bad, according to a man named Craig. He told The Sun, “I wouldn’t want to be homeless anywhere else. We’re out of sight, out of mind here in Vegas.” Well, sort of. A few folks have come visiting over the years.

Covered In Art

Given its size, the system has attracted a lot of attention — from television shows to news crews as well as graffiti artists who leave mesmerizing murals. However, it’s not recommended to visit as any sort of attraction. The tunnels are considered one of the most dangerous spots in Las Vegas.

Casino Neighbors

At least there’s one perk. As the tunnels are conveniently located right by some of the best casinos in the world, some residents have worked out ways to benefit. A man named Stephen has explained how he cruises the casinos for abandoned chips. On his best day, that resulted in a $997 haul.

Shine A Light

And one outsider has been tracking it all. Matthew O’Brien spent 12 years visiting and conducting interviews inside the flood tunnels to write his book Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas. He’s also founded the Shine a Light Foundation, which offers a variety of services to the residents.

Will Remain Open

But while the city continues to work on housing and other solutions to help the homeless, the tunnels will remain a shelter for those who have lived there for decades. There’s no shortage of space and won’t be in the foreseeable future.

Under Construction

You see, like pretty much every single city infrastructure project in history, the tunnel construction is still ongoing! Yep, the Flood Control District is still working to expand its massively wide tunnel system, built to carry millions of gallons of rushing rainwater to Lake Mead.

Beneath The Desert

And the mole people of Las Vegas are often treated with the same disdain as homeless folks across the world. Beyond battling the elements and struggling to find a means to survive, the homeless are used to being completely invisible to society. But while you may think that means they’re dangerous, one man proved that’s far from the truth.

Lost And Found

See, when Roberta Hoskie unknowingly dropped her $10,000 check, she couldn’t have felt that she deserved the good fortune that was about to come her way. She received a phone call saying someone had picked up her check – only she hadn’t even known that she’d lost it. And when she learned that the finder was homeless like Harris, she knew she had to thank him properly.

Rising Up

Hoskie’s own past might just have been the inspiration for the way she reacted to Elmer Alvarez’s act of kindness. Although she had since found success as a real estate broker, her early years in New Haven, Connecticut, had been difficult. She grew up with her single mother and three brothers and sisters, and the family was anything but wealthy.

Working Little By Little

Hoskie had experienced not having a roof over her head, and she had relied on welfare services to get her through a teenage pregnancy. But she wouldn’t remain in a state of need for long; at 20, she started working at Yale University, which afforded her the means to buy a home.

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